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Local poet and musician helped put Gainesvilles arts scene to music
Harriet Woodcock has been instrumental in forging the area’s arts scene. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times


Woodcock recites part of a song from her musical "Second Fiddle."

Harriett Woodcock says even if you’re not musically inclined, you can still hear the rhythm in the spoken word. Which is why she has written both poetry and musicals to express herself throughout her long life.

Beyond writing, Woodcock also plays the violin and has been instrumental in developing the Gainesville arts scene over the years, including volunteer work with the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra, Quinlan Arts Center, Northeast Georgia History Center, Northeast Georgia Writers and, at one time, was the national music chairwoman for the National League of American Pen Women.

"When I moved to town 15 years ago I asked ... who was an important person in the arts?" said Marianne Scott, a friend of Woodcock. "I kind of helped produced her musicals. I became aware of how important her work was and I wrote some grants and got some interest and produced, with the help of the local theater groups and high school drama classes, several of her works."

Scott said she is just a big fan of Woodcock.

"She still will recite poetry," Scott said. "She’s very clever. When the Internet came out she wrote a poem called ‘I Don’t Know From What Dot Com.’ She’s just really fun and I’ve never met anyone like that."

Even today, Woodcock will pepper her conversations with lines from her poems — or, simply speak in phrases that rhyme.

When asked about the inspiration behind her writing, she recalled one of her poems, "On the Banks of Lake Lanier."

"Especially on the banks of Lake Lanier

where the breeze is free and the water is clear

and when the fish begin to bite

you know everything’s gonna be alright."

Woodcock said that poem was performed on the downtown Gainesville square during the Olympics in 1996.

"I’ve been writing for what seems all my life," said Woodcock, an honorary lifetime member of the Northeast Georgia Writers. "It seems like a natural way to express things and it’s fun and I amazed myself that I could do it."

Her writing shows a quirkiness, too. For example, she called her first musical "Second Fiddle" because, try as she might, she was never as good a fiddle player as she says her mother was.

"I played second fiddle to my mother," said Woodcock, who learned the instrument from her mother and can play by ear.

Many of the 15 musicals Woodcock wrote were produced and performed at Brenau University, where she graduated with a fine arts degree. Woodcock also graduated from the University of Georgia in 1948 with a journalism degree.

She said people and nature were her favorite themes to write about.

"I think if I could go and smell the salt air I would be a different person," said Woodcock, who loves the water and the outdoors.

Woodcock’s parents, John and Faye Woodcock, owned a pharmacy on the square, Piedmont Drug Company, where Harriett worked for many years. But her love was always the arts community.

"I had a really good time and enjoyed my arts," said Woodcock, who is now in her mid-80s. "I was a third-generation violinist and taught several people myself."

Rosemary Dodd, also an important part of the Gainesville arts scene, is a member of the American Pen Women and has been friends with Woodcock for years.

"Harriett just insisted that I become a member and through that I have done so much," Dodd said. "She wrote these wonderful little musicals and plays. You know, she speaks in rhyme; whenever anyone had a birthday or a special recognition or something, Harriett was always delighted to do a poem for you.

"She’s so precious and she’s so giving."

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